Are Catholic schools 'worth it'?

2017 is here and it came with many resolutions from many people! I was like many and thought about what I should resolve to do. The usual list of losing weight and disengaging from technology are always on my list. I added more time for prayer to my list and I was pretty much ready for the New Year.

The good news is that our schools are doing better than me! The Catholic Schools Office (CSO) held our first Twitter chat and we used resolutions as our theme. We discussed why resolutions might be important, how we would explain resolutions to our students and then we shared our professional resolutions. The results were very interesting, as teachers and principals were resolving to remind all that everyone is made in God's image. Teachers and principals want to provide additional opportunities for students to master concepts. They want to know our students better. They were resolving to commit to choosing love with everything that they do and they want to encourage our communities to choose love and kindness as a first response, not a random response. Several indicated that they want to invite others to celebrate Mass with us. An eclectic list, that goes to the heart of Catholic education.

One resolution that was repeated by many was a strong desire to make sure that we are developing the whole child. Teachers and principals participating in the chat want to recognize, develop and acknowledge those gifts a child presents that are outside the academic world. They want their students to know that because they are created in the likeness of God, that they all have something to contribute.

As part of our chat, we also discussed the list of resolutions that Pope Francis is said to have made. According to many on social media, Pope Francis made the following resolutions:

1. Don't gossip.

2. Finish your meals.

3. Make time for others.

4. Choose the "more humble" purchase.

5. Meet the poor "in the flesh."

6. Stop judging others.

7. Befriend those who disagree.

8. Make commitments, such as marriage.

9. Make it a habit to "ask the Lord."

10. Be happy.

When reading through the list of resolutions attributed to Pope Francis, we realized that by working to live up to those resolutions, we would be better people, better teachers and administrators in our Catholic schools. What Pope Francis is resolving to do is to live as Christ asks us to live. His resolutions demand that we do the best that we can to be a friend, to not be wasteful, to live a faith filled life. If we can live up to the resolutions of Pope Francis, we will be better Catholics and build better Catholic schools.

I am frequently asked if Catholic schools are "worth it." I think the list of resolutions that Pope Francis listed puts forth a sound argument as to why Catholic schools are "worth it." Our schools are places where children learn not to gossip. They learn that words are powerful and they can damage or heal. Our students also learn that when we judge others, we often forget that we are called to be merciful, and we forget that we are help each other on our faith journeys.

Our students learn to serve others and our schools provide our students with many opportunities to serve. Many times our students meet people who are struggling with poverty and when they do, they begin to understand the abundance that God has provided to us to share.

Our students learn to pray, they learn to ask God for guidance. They understand what commitment means and that their word should always mean something, that we do our best when we stand for our faith and when we learn to discuss our disagreements in a civil manner and reach out to those who disagree with us, we have a much better chance of bringing others to Christ.

New Year's resolutions can be very good things when we use them to focus on being better Catholics. They can help to remind us that we must do our best every day to be the face of Christ to those we meet. Resolutions can be the first step in improving what is already good. They can help us to build even better schools. I am grateful that we have so many dedicated educators in our Catholic schools who are committed to being the best that they can be, so that our students grow not only in academic areas, but in the areas that will help them to be faith filled Catholics. We are blessed in the Archdiocese of Boston with these wonderful professionals. We believe in their work. We believe in Catholic education. It is definitely "worth it."

- Kathy Mears is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston.